Potential claim on Professor Dumbledore’s Estate

Potential claim on Professor Dumbledore’s Estate

Sir Michael Gambon, famously known to play Professor Albus Dumbledore in the Harry Potter series, died in September 2023. His death has raised various questions into the administration of his estate, and this could potentially lead to disputes or a potential claim under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 (“the Inheritance Act”).

Sir Michael was married to his wife, Lady Anne Gambon, for 61 years until his death in 2023. They had one son, Fergus. In 2002, Gambon entered a long-term relationship with a set designer, Philippa Hart. Philippa and Sir Michael had two children together, Tom and William. Upon considering the various newspaper articles surrounding his death, it is understood that Gambon split his time between his wife, Lady Anne, and his partner, Philippa, for the better part of two decades.

Although the star shared his time equally between his two families, the same has not been replicated in his Will, which was written in 2016. The actor seems to have left the majority of his approximately £1.5 million estate to his wife and their son. His long-term partner, Philippa, appears to have been left nothing under the terms of his Will, with their two sons receiving a cash gift of £10,000 each and a trophy.

In England and Wales, there is a concept of testamentary freedom, where a testator has the freedom to leave their estate to whoever they choose in their Will, and there is no specific obligation to provide for any particular friend or family member. Even though there is the concept of testamentary freedom, this does not mean that the estate is protected against various challenges brought against it.

Although it has not been reported whether Phillipa intends to bring a challenge against Sir Michael’s estate, Philippa could bring a claim under the Inheritance (Provisions for Family and Dependants) Act 1975. She could have grounds on the basis that she had been a cohabitee with the deceased for a period of at least two years prior to his death. There might be a difficulty to consider, given that Philippa and Sir Michael did not live together permanently prior to his death.

To claim as a cohabitee, Philippa must prove that she lived with Sir Michael for at least a period of two years. She must also prove they were living as a husband and wife, albeit without a formal marriage.  Whilst a long-term girlfriend is likely to satisfy this, Sir Michael, in this case, had a wife alongside this relationship, and Philippa may face some difficulties in trying to establish this. This would be a question for the court to consider if a claim is brought forward.

It is, therefore, important to note that a person’s estate can be challenged even where a testator’s clear intention is evident in the Will. Any executor to a Will must be aware of these risks when carrying out their duties, to ensure that the administration of the Estate is carried out as smoothly as possible. It is also important to note that, the beneficiaries reserve the right to bring any such claim within the six-month period after the grant of representation has been issued.

Ellisons Solicitors’ Contentious Probate team are available to discuss any such queries and their contact details can be found here.